Post-Apocalyptic Spaceship

Last weekend I did two things: Learned how to weld and made my first sculpture ever.

I call the sculpture “Post-Apocalyptic Spaceship.”

Post-Apocalyptic SpaceshipMy original idea was a spaceship of the kind that might adorn a Fifties SF pulp — a shiny rocket shape. But given that I was working with scrap metals, not to mention very new to doing good welds and cutting with an oxy/acetylene torch, I made a virtue of necessity and went with the damaged look.

I made this spaceship from a large rusty cylinder I found. I cut four triangle to make the top and four squares of metal to set it on. Assembling the triangles was tricky — kind of like working a puzzle, except that there was no right way to do it.

Here are the some of the materials I used:

spaceship in partsI had to smooth out the triangles on a grinding machine to make them easier to attach to each other. And then I used an anvil and a hammer — blacksmithing! — to give them each a curve.

Even after all that they didn’t fit quite smoothly, so I left a burned effect.

burn holesI hope some of the people in this ship managed to escape that fire! (The very little people — the sculpture is nine and a half inches tall.)

I’ve been talking about wanting to try my hand at welded sculpture for years, ever since I started see all the tacky but wonderful metal yard art around. My sweetheart called my bluff by giving me a gift certificate to The Crucible, a marvelous place in Oakland that offers training in all kinds of industrial arts with a creative goal in mind. They offer everything from glass-blowing to making kinetic sculpture to working in leather to building wooden creations to a dozen other things. It’s in a big, old warehouse building.

The class was small — just four people — and the teacher was a woman who turned out to be another recent transplant from Texas like me. She studied art at my alma mater, the University of Texas, where she fell in love with welded sculpture.

She was a good teacher — encouraging without false praise. I am inordinately pleased that she said nice things about my welds. Though I did feel like I was beginning to get the hang of moving the welding stick in a spiral at a slow, steady pace — that is, when I wasn’t having trouble getting it to spark.

The key to good welding is to get close to what you’re working on, to take your time, and to breathe. I don’t know what it is about people that we tend to hold our breath when we’re doing something new and difficult, but it’s a common issue in martial arts, too.

I don’t think I’m going to take up commercial welding as a line of work. Just doing it for the weekend made it clear to me that it’s hard work, and it takes a lot of practice to get good at it. There are lots of safety precautions, too, since you’re working with gases under pressure and heating things up to the melting point of steel. Not the sort of work that can be done without paying close attention to what you’re doing.

But I think I might take another class. There’s a second session of welded sculpture this summer, and then there are classes in other kinds of welding.

I’m thinking about doing a UFO to go with my spaceship. Or maybe a robot.

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Post-Apocalyptic Spaceship — 12 Comments

    • Sheila, if there’s a community college in the area, they might offer welding classes. Many of them seem to do that. Though the Crucible is an amazing place, blending together all kinds of industrial technology (even modern ones — they teach classes using arduino microcontrollers to make kinetic sculpture) with an eye to art.

    • You know, I have a robot I found at a yard sale. It’s made from tin cans, with a bucket for a head. Looks a little like the Tin Woodman from Oz, except that it’s bright pink.

      But, yeah, I need to make my own.

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  2. Very enjoyable photos and story. Congratulations on this awesome achievement!